Prez Candidate's Popularity Surges After Rape Remarks
Rodrigo Duterte's front-runner lead before May presidential elections is widening
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2016 12:48 PM CDT
In this April 22, 2016, file photo, presidential front-runner Mayor Rodrigo Duterte clenches his fist during a campaign rally in Silang township, south of Manila in the Philippines.   (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)

(Newser) – Philippines presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte has made quite a name for himself both at home and abroad with his zero-tolerance approach to crime and colorful language, including a recent rape "joke" he made about a murdered Australian missionary. But the outraged response from his opponents and prominent women's and religious groups hasn't exactly hurt the man known as "Duterte Harry"—in fact, it looks like his lead before the May 9 elections has grown since he made the comment, the ABC reports. And it was a significant jump: Of 1,800 respondents to a Social Weather Stations research survey in March, 27% of them said they supported Duterte. By April 18-20, when the survey was readministered (and just a couple of days after his rape-focused statements), that number had jumped to 33%.

Duterte is now 9 points ahead of second-place candidate Sen. Grace Poe, per the SWS poll. "It's a clear lead," an SWS rep says. "The joke could have affected him in such a way that his score could have even been higher had it not been for that news." A second survey by Pulse Asia has him even further ahead, with 34% saying they're Duterte fans and 22% aligning with Poe, the AP reports. Some analysts do say there may still be repercussions for his remarks—inflammatory rhetoric the Washington Post points out had some on Twitter comparing him to Donald Trump—especially among women and other marginalized voters. "This may strike at the heart of his attraction—his portrayal of himself as champion of the masses," one political expert tells the AP. (Another Filipino whose mouth has gotten him in trouble: Manny Pacquaio.)